Federalism and a heterogeneous Mthwakazi

A unitary Zimbabwe has failed Mthwakazi; our view of the Zimbabwe political space today is that it is –to most Mthwakazi residents – a place of reference, not a place of residence (a place of learning, not a place of dwelling); sadly, it is hard to find anything good or positive to learn; Zimbabwe is a place of learning how not to govern.

Zeroing in on Mthwakazi’s Challenges

1. The Unitary State

Under the unitary state of Zimbabwe, Mthwakazi has been transformed and reduced into an appendage of Mashonaland with no authority over its destiny. Its citizens have suffered intolerable human rights abuses and continue to face marginalisation. The majoritarian rule which is the focus of Mashonaland rule is essentially an ethnic Shona tyranny whose only interest is the retention of power to impose one nation, one creed and one system at whatever cost.

2. Power disparity

One major weakness of Zimbabwe as a political entity is the disenfranchisement of citizens from the decision-making body of the country. Elections are a charade, a theatre meant to give the public the impression it has control over how the country is run but politicians and the elite do.

3. The ZANU PF/ Mashonaland reign

We endure an arrogant regime whose only interest is ruling over but least prepared to serve Mthwakazi public interest. The Mashonaland dominated government does not bother about understanding or meeting the needs of a heterogeneous Mthwakazi society. If anything they are obsessed with power and expanding ethnic Shona hegemony across the territory now known as Zimbabwe. This is apparent in the state’s attempts to impose Shona language, culture, norms and values in Mthwakazi.

A foundation for ethical politics

The main condition for the achievement of ethical politics is a foundational structure that recognises and/ or acknowledges difference and eliminates suspicion within society. We must eliminate narcissism; the underlying narcissistic orientation means what each tribe experiences as real is only that which exists within itself while the external phenomena do not radiate independent reality, but are experienced only through the lenses of one’s own tribe.

Federalism best choice

At present federalism is the only political model that meets the needs of a heterogeneous Mthwakazi nation, but judging by the rhetoric of Zimbabwe’s mainstream media and political parties which are essentially a mouthpiece of Mashonaland interests, federalism is an anathema.  

Rather strangely, mainstream media and political parties are peddling a narrative that portrays federalism as a threat to unity and peace in ‘their country’ forgetting it is our country too and we too are interested in unity and peace but do not believe a unitary state can adequately meet those needs. Another misleading perception is that which conflates federalism with tribalism. We argue that the two are different and not related.

Contrary to views from Zimbabwe mainstream media and political parties, the only model to preserve mutual respect, trust and peace in the country will be a federal state. If for whatever reasons Mashonaland prefers a preservation of the status quo then a divorce of the two states is in order.

Why Federalism?

We believe federalism and direct democracy will provide for greater opportunity for a system that embraces freedom of choice and self-determination that we desire within the Mthwakazi political scene.

The term “federalism” is derived from Latin “foedus”, which translates to “alliance” and “contract”. Thus federalism is the creation of a federal state and acting together within such a structure; it is a mixed or compound mode of government that combines a general government with regional governments in a single political system.

Federal constituents

Fig. 1, Proposed provinces of the Mthwakazi state

As illustrated in Fig. 1, most Mthwakazi maps break the state into five large provinces but we believe that forms large, highly diverse constituencies potentially compromising the effectiveness of their administration; we therefore suggest transforming current districts (with smaller ones being asked to join nearest neighbours if they want to) to create states that would make up the Mthwakazi federal state in order to cluster identical socio-political communities and enhance administrative efficiency.

Free Zimbabwe Political Map black and white | Black and White ...
Fig. 2, Source: Open Source World Maps A map of the provinces and districts of Zimbabwe

Fig. 2 shows all provinces and districts in the Zimbabwean territory while Fig. 3 illustrates the boundaries of Mthwakazi. From the two maps, we can create states that would make up the Mthwakazi federal state.

Hail the King! | The New Examiner
Fig. 3, Source: Google Images The border of Mthwakazi state

Separation of power

Mthwakazi is a victim of a system that recklessly concentrated power on one body of government, if not an individual. We cannot afford to commit the same mistake. Decentralisation of power and direct democracy offers better outcomes: people must be sovereign thus, the supreme political authority.

The federal state shall be divided into three political levels: the federal state, the states and municipalities; a separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers at all three levels is essential.

Mthwakazi will have a bicameral parliament. All members to be directly elected by the people. The Federal Assembly shall be the legislative power. Its two chambers – the National Council (MPs – people’s representatives) and the Council of States (senate – states’ representatives – states to send two members each) – will have the same powers but meet separately.   

In place of an executive presidency, we shall have an executive Federal Council (members chosen by the Federal Assembly) from which the representational functions of a president will be taken over by one (or all) of the government members. This would be a rotational role assumed by a different government member yearly. The president will be primus inter pares [first among equals] with very limited special powers.

Power to the people

Historically, people’s power has been appropriated by politicians and the elite; minority rights denied by the majority; village resources stolen by urban centres, the elite and politicians.

Direct democracy is what will divorce Mthwakazi citizens from their Zimbabwean experience. All citizens shall take part in decision-making and minority rights strongly protected.

New legislation and amendments to existing legislation passed by parliament as well as some international treaties would be open to challenge by citizens.

Conclusion

Whether as a standalone state or within a unitary Zimbabwe state, a federal government system is the only system that serves a heterogeneous Mthwakazi’s needs perfectly and it is the only system we need to live under; if out of a desire to keep Matabeleland as a political token, Mashonaland objects to federalism, we believe for the good of both Mashonaland and Matabeleland, the illegally amalgamated states must immediately break up to stand as independent states.

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